Raleigh, N.C. — Former state House Speaker Jim Black has been released from federal prison, his attorney said Monday.
Black was scheduled to be released from the prison in Jesup, Ga., in March 2011, but he will spend the final six months at a halfway house in Mecklenburg County or under house arrest, Raleigh attorney Whit Powell said in a news release.
Jon Black traveled to Jesup to pick up his father and bring him back to North Carolina, Powell said.
Once one of the most powerful politicians in North Carolina, the 74-year-old optometrist pleaded guilty in 2007 to charges that he accepted illegal campaign contributions from chiropractors in exchange for supporting legislation favorable to the industry. He was sentenced to 63 months in prison.
“Being separated from my family, friends, and loved ones since 2007 has been difficult. My years in two different institutions have been a period of great personal growth and learning,” Jim Black said in a statement.
“While in office, I made speech after speech about the need for education as a means of reducing the prison population,” he said. “I now know firsthand that this is true. So much of what I have learned these last few years has re-energized my commitment to providing educational opportunities to our state’s young people, as well as adult learners.”
Black also pleaded guilty in state court in 2007 to bribery and obstruction of justice charges. The bribery charge was in connection to paying former Forsyth County lawmaker Michael Decker to switch parties in 2003 so Black could retain a share of the House speakership. The obstruction charge stemmed from encouraging chiropractors to fudge when speaking to authorities about cash they had given him.
The state prison sentences have run at the same time as his federal sentence, and Black last year paid off a $1 million fine that was imposed for the bribery conviction.
He was able to trim a year off the sentence by completing alcohol treatment in prison and through good-behavior credits.
Powell said Black will likely write a book to offer his side of the story on his guilty pleas, as well as other anecdotes from his time in politics.